After an impressive seven-game stretch to start the 2017 season, the Buffalo Bills came back down to earth with a performance to forget on Thursday night.
In front of a nationally televised audience on CBS and NFL Network, the Bills fell to the New York Jets by a score of 34-21. The result drops them to 5-3 on the season and is rather unfortunate for a team that could’ve moved to first place in the AFC East with a win.
Not much went right for the Bills at MetLife Stadium. A team that came into Thursday’s game sporting a league low three giveaways turned the ball over that many times. Apart from two garbage time possessions late in the game, they finished with 180 yards of total offense. On both sides of the football, it was complete capitulation at the line of scrimmage.
Suddenly, a week that began with optimism after a dominant win over the Oakland Raiders ends with a great many concerns. Is this an otherwise anomalous speed bump on the road to legitimate playoff contention down the line? Or is it the start of another frustrating late season slide that’s defined previously promising seasons?
Week Nine Buffalo Bills Takeaways
Bills Make a Mediocre Jets Pass Rush Look Elite
Coming into Thursday’s game, not many expected the Bills to struggle with the Jets pass rush. Even though Tyrod Taylor‘s been sacked 19 times this year, tied for 11th highest in the league, Gang Green hasn’t exactly excelled getting to the quarterback. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had fewer sacks up to this point in the season than New York’s 11.
So it came as a complete surprise that the Jets defensive front got to Taylor early and often in East Rutherford. It began on the Bills’ first offensive play of the game when Jordan Jenkins came through unabated and threw Taylor down for a 12-yard loss. That turned out to be a frightening harbinger of things to come as the Bills’ pass protection continuously let their quarterback down all game.
When all was said and done, the Bills conceded seven sacks on the night. That’s the most the Bills have given up in a single game since surrendering eight against the New England Patriots on September 20, 2015. It’s a far cry from the last time these two teams met in the season opener when the Jets managed just two. In the end, the fact Buffalo made Jets fans relive the “New York Sack Exchange” days is an immense concern moving forward.
Defense Turns In Worst Performance of the Year
Among the more prominent feel-good stories of 2017 so far was the performance of the Bills defense. Through seven games, they forced 17 turnovers, tied with the Ravens for the best mark in the NFL. Three members of the secondary, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and rookie Tre’Davious White, garnered a top ten player rating from Pro Football Focus up to this point of the season.
But it all came crashing down against the Jets. White had another rough outing reminiscent of his less than stellar performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in week five. On the Jets’ first possession of the third quarter, wide receiver Robby Anderson beat him down the field on a go route and hauled in a 25-yard touchdown grab to make it 17-7. It turned out to be just the beginning of a miserable finish to the game.
— NFL (@NFL) November 3, 2017
In the end, the Jets scored 24 unanswered points in the second half before two late Bills drives which made the scoreline much less one-sided than it really was. The Jets ground attack, averaging 60 yards per game over its last four, gashed the Bills third-ranked run defense for 194 on Thursday. All of it confirms the fact that this defense as a whole took a significant step back in week nine.
Sean McDermott, Leslie Frazier and company need to rectify the situation between now and their next game. They certainly need to have a short memory with the New Orleans Saints coming to town in week ten. The Saints boast the NFL’s second best offense in terms of total yards per game. There’s no doubt that Buffalo’s defense will certainly need a bounce back performance if they’re to get back on track after Thursday’s defeat.
Huge Missed Opportunity to Confirm Postseason Legitimacy
The Bills don’t get many chances to showcase themselves on national television this year. In fact, unless any of their future games get flexed to Sunday Night Football, this was their only opportunity to do so. And suffice it to say that they didn’t exactly impress. To put it bluntly: they were absolutely atrocious and, as a result, have a lot less observers from around the league taking them seriously as a playoff contender.
This is the third time since the beginning of their 17-year postseason drought that the Bills have dropped a game after starting off 5-2. On each of the previous two occasions, it was the Jets who handed them that loss. They proceeded to go a combined 3-15 the rest of the way during those two seasons (2008 and 2011). In order to avoid a repeat performance in 2017, they need to navigate an increasingly treacherous schedule.
Their next four include home battles with the Saints and Patriots along with road trips against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. After what transpired in week nine, none of those carry with them the appearance of a guaranteed win. Even the Chargers game is no gimme, with them having won three of their last four including an impressive performance against the Pats in a loss.
For now, the Bills are left wondering what could’ve been after a woeful outing against their AFC East rivals. Though they’re still fifth in the conference and could remain so after this week if they get help, Thursday’s loss certainly leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Through it all, what could’ve been the Bills’ best start since their last Super Bowl season of 1993 ends up as another learning moment in the process.